Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Simple Table for the Holidays

Speaking of simplifying Christmas... (we were, weren't we?) I wanted to share this five minute table cuteness.  I always dress our table for Christmas morning, but I also don't like a LOT of fuss and bother on the table or the plates as people never know what to do with all that stuff. I set a pretty table the night before Christmas, and then we wake to a lovely scene.  This took about five minutes to create all of the napkins and who doesn't love a timesaver like that?  I take such joy in creating a pretty scene, but not spending a fortune, or all day doing it. Do you know what I mean?
 I began with the cloth napkins I wanted to use, these old, gray chambray ones, some clippings from a sturdy bush beside my house, and some jute twine from the party drawer.  (So far, all things I had on hand so no extra spending or scurrying!)
 Now this idea, was genius, from a dear co-worker of mine.  She shared that if you place a paper napkin into the cloth one before folding, people can use the paper and set the cloth aside!  Not only is this great because you can set a festive table with the cloth... but the paper is practical and puts people at ease... especially those wearing Christmas Red lipstick. (personal experience speaking.)
 Once folded, simply add a sprig of green, tie with the jute twine (or whatever you've got on hand)...
 And tie on a small ornament if you want.  I keep a little box of them on hand, to use as vase fillers and such, and I've found that they often come in handy for fun little projects such as this.
 Do you have any simple and festive table ideas to share? 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

My thoughts about Cocoa bars...

 Oooh it's countdown week!  I swear, everyplace I look, someone is telling me how many days or sleeps until Christmas, like some ominous ticking clock that I can't escape.  I feel like Captain Hook from Peter Pan! My eyebrow is starting to twitch. (Not really, I'm just being dramatic for dramatic's sake.)  And I'm ready, so if I feel like that, how must those of you still shopping or waiting on gifts, or plans feel? 

 So maybe in light of that, you need some inspiration, on something you can quietly, peacefully, and thoughtfully put together, for your family, without spending gobs on, and without having to scurry all over the place, gathering supplies? (Because most of us have cocoa and marshmallows and candy canes this time of year... and if we don't have cookies, then shame on us, and you may want to at least get cracking on that...)(clock ticks...) (grin.)

How about a simple hot cocoa bar? 
 And forgive me if the word "simple" snags my attention away for a moment.  Do you know that I word searched "simple hot cocoa bar" in Pinterest and came up with thousands of matches... and guess how many were actually "simple" in my book? If you guessed zero, you know me well. I know simple is a relative term, but I just feel like the world is out of control with the "more is better" mentality. Jars and jars and jars of things... things on stands and things on platters and in baskets and stacked and on shelves and overflowing and making my eyes hurt.  And not that there isn't a place for that, if you're hosting a big party or event, and that's your main attraction... but I made this for my kids, for daily use, and for the many gatherings we will be having in our home this next week... I truly wanted simple Cocoa.  Mugs.  Napkins.  A few mix-ins but nothing over the top! 

My solution... matching canisters, three tops.  Mugs set out for use, with candy canes for a festive pop of red.  I placed little star cookies (Trader Joes) into one canister, packets of cocoa (for less mess and saving of my sanity into another,) and fresh, soft marshmallows into another.  There is whipped cream in the fridge if people need that, and the only other décor is the Kora vase (Crate & Barrel) with fresh greens + fairy lights & tiny letterboard sign.  The best part, is that it's getting used daily.  Easy to replace the few mugs with clean ones, and pop in a new candy cane to use as the stir stick.  

 Going simpler always feels just right.  Going overboard seldom does.  This mindset is giving me the most CALM and peaceful holiday season I've ever had.  Just saying.  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Quick office flip

 Hello lovelies. Just a fun post to close out the week!  Today (on a wild hair) I woke up, got my son off, tucked my sick daughter back into bed and promptly rearranged our entire family office before starting my ACTUAL (and crazy busy) day.  I think the busier I am, the more productive I get. Can any of you relate to this?  It was totally unplanned and gave me an opportunity to give this room a thorough cleaning.  This little cabinet got moved here, but it's empty, except for my letterboard letters.  I keep thinking I'll use it for office storage, but we are such minimalists on back stocked items and supplies, that I already have a place for everything.  We really don't do the "keep for just in case" thing.  We keep what we use and if we don't have it, we tend to get just what we need, rather than gobs to find storage for later...  (Looking at you, cases of printer paper that almost nobody needs that much of.)
 So here's the thing.  We used to have the office arranged like this and it was my absolute FAVE.  But then Adrain was working from home so much and there was always a computer glare so we moved things around to avoid that.  Pretty sure we tried about four configurations before finding one that was "just okay" but worked well for him.  I always longed to go back to the floating desk option.

Now that he is working for a new financial company where he meets with teachers and school staff week after week, he never uses this in the daytime.  So whohoo… I moved it back this way!
 I always get asked about cords with a floating desk.  Okay here's the scoop.  It's just downright ugly.  I know there is a cool cord cover you can get... I mean I have seen them places where cords are in high traffic areas but this is like two feet.  So my solution back when we did this the first time, and again now... clear packing tape.  It didn't leave a residue when I did it before and it keeps that cord down.  It's not the prettiest, but... real life.  Ya know? Also, wrapping paper... because... prettyyyyy.
 Desktop is minimal but every desk needs some green. (White pencils came from Amazon, years ago.) This plant is surprisingly still alive.  I've even done my best to kill it by forgetting to water it nearly constantly. I do believe this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
 And lastly.  My husband uses this little corner each morning for his bible reading, etc. (This chair's partner got temporarily moved into the garage.  I'm currently deciding it's future fate.)  I pulled in a garden stool that was being stored for winter, and it will work great for now.  Nothing new... just old items, used in new ways, which is always my favorite and most inspiring way to live. This whole thing took about a half hour to figure out, clean and put back. Yet one more perk for minimalist living. (No, I'm never getting off this little platform. Haha!) 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Crisp bread link... keto

Today, I am just popping in to share the link for this amazing little crisp bread recipe for those of you, looking for a low-carb, crackery-crunch this holiday season.  It is a keto recipe that I just adore.  (I had to swap out unsweetened dried white raisins for the unsweetened dried cranberries in my version, as I couldn't find the unsweet cranberries before making this.) I'm making this recipe for all my upcoming holiday cheese trays.  Yum!

The recipe is easy, which I tend to like.  It may seem fussy with having to bake the loaves, then freeze, then slice, then bake again, but girl, make this anyway. 

Also, just a note about her recipe.  I actually baked my slices for 30 min per side (so about an hour total) but just watch yours and see.  That was what produced the crisp crunch I was after. What is your favorite go-to recipe this season?  Do you have any low-carb favorites to share? 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Don't add just a little more

This holiday season, my decorations are just killing me, in the very best of ways! I honestly questioned if I should even share them on social media, because in the wake of home tours, I know mine come out looking on the boring side...  I think my mantra has been a constant hum of "don't add just a little more."  (I can honestly say that has probably never been at the foreground of my mind, this time of year and I don't see much of that attitude splashed all over IG either!)  However, I've never felt more at peace, more myself and more calm in my spirt, so you can't tell me there isn't a direct connection!  

Raise your hand if you love what minimalism is doing in your life! 

I think before, I'd always think I needed to add greenery to this, more ornaments to that, another candle here, some "thing" more there.  This year, true simplicity is giving way to breathing room unlike any I've actually experienced during this season.  

I don't have a ton of words today, just a few photos that show this in action.  Please, welcome in, and enjoy the simplicity and rest alongside me. 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

My heart, this holiday

I've been having so much fun blogging lately, though I may slow down some this week, as it is a wild one with four days of work.  Plus, I'm photographing my coworkers homes for our company Instagram home tours, both kids have practice + two meets each, for bowling and swim, OF COURSE ON THE SAME DAYS, and then Adrain and I fly out for his company Christmas party over the weekend. (Eeep… that's going to be SO much fun. Any time cocktail dresses and historic hotels are involved, it's got to be FUN!)  (If you want to keep up, you know I'll be posting lots over on Instagram @lemonademakinmama  and I'd love for you to come follow and say hi!)

Today, I wanted to share something that just occurred to me late last week.  I shared this on IG, but it was just a snippet of my heart.  I've been sharing lots about my minimalism journey (and if you doubt that I've changed, all it takes is a quick scroll through my archived posts to see how this home has simplified over the years! ha!).  I've shared that I've been living the keto lifestyle as well.  This past week, I was chatting with someone about self-care.  Mostly, what I used to think it was, and what it actually is.  I used to think of it more as indulging myself. Whatever the topic may be, just general indulgence.  Like, a constant, "treat yo self" attitude. Those years of my daddy's illness were really hard on me, and I pulled way back from social media to cope.  I still feel sad about closing my shop and old IG account but I just needed that space and it was the right thing for me at the time. Anyway, when he died last October, and I saw tangibly that you take nothing with you, it changed me at my core and I love who this girl in front of you is becoming. Flawed and broken, yes...  but joy FILLED.  I think that's because I began buckling down intensely on actual, GOOD self care.  Editing my life, all parts of it, embracing true minimalism in the ways that I approach decorating, storing things, clothing, grocery shopping, back stocking of things, and even food.  I got serious about the keto diet and all of these life edits helped me grieve and find ME again.  

All this to say, that this is my story right now, and I feel really strongly that someone out there needs to hear this encouragement, for their own holiday season.  Don't mistake indulgence for self-care, it seldom is.  But do find what your focus should be and let that guide you.  For me, keto and minimalism have changed my life, because it really comes down to taking what God has given me charge over and honoring Him with the choices I make.... which is the best self-care any of us can do.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Simple hosting (Becoming Minimalist)

We had a really simple Thanksgiving this year, and it was my first time in almost twenty consecutive years, not hosting one or the other side of the family.  I didn't hate that, and realized I was due for a different type of holiday this year to recharge.  Even those of us who adore hosting need breaks apparently.  

It got me thinking though... how easy it is to overcomplicate things in the hosting world.  We see table scapes now, that are piled high with so much swag... plates stacked on chargers and more plates, and no room for food anywhere on the entire table.  That feels fussy and complicated to me.  Does it to you also? I often like to purchase a cute package of printed paper napkins that apply to the occasion, and those can be all we seem to need to make the event feel festive.

When I was at Ikea recently, I purchased some yummy mulled drinks to have on hand for my kids. (I wish I had gotten a few more bottles, they love them!)  The day before Thanksgiving, I took five whole minutes maybe- could have even taken about two minutes in all honesty.  I put one of the bottles out, some glasses with cute straws that I almost always keep on hand in a variety of colors, some dried orange slices in a jar for fun garnish, and some little tarts from Trader Joes.  Amazingly simple in both expense, preparation and display, yet pretty and thoughtful.  Hosting, if it's anything, should be pretty and thoughtful. 
I've been places where I felt like an afterthought- we all probably have. But anything we open our home for, can be simple and casual, but still laid out ahead of time to let people know that they matter. That they were thought of beforehand. I love store-bought items for sake of ease and I love that you can take anything store-bought and make it pretty and festive for those you love.  The holiday season has enough pressure.  Give yourself a break and make it all as simple as you can.  Spend your energies in making things thoughtful, and you won't collapse on December 26th from holiday burn out.  

What do you think about this idea? I'd love to hear your favorite ways to keep things simple, yet pretty, if you'd care to share with us in comments!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Pillow management (Becoming Minimalist)

During the Summer, I visited a few favorite shops with friends.  I noticed that I am immediately drawn to less when it comes to furniture with pillows. I paid attention to what I seemed to move toward and every time without fail, it was the textures and neutral colors.  Girls, knowing yourself is awesome but sometimes you think you know yourself and yourself surprises you by being slightly different than you thought she was! 

It took me several weeks but I finally pulled out a few of the pillows in the mix around here (this room used to have eight total) and made some changes.  I like linen or wool textures in the summer, and I like to add in some furry or velvety ones as the weather cools.  (Then again, my big furry one stayed all year round last year and it was just comfy so it may stay forever) I treated myself to the chunky throw for my birthday last September and that is plenty on this comfortable sofa without adding another pillow (or two, as the case was).  I realized that not every corner needed pillows for people to just throw on the floor when they cluster around this space. (That's what company always does anyway... and I never minded, it's just, I wondered, what was the point.  They are useless if they aren't being used! You know?) Honestly, it's been nice not having so many pillows to manage daily!  The rearranging an fluffing... it gets old when you're wired like me and tend to do it nightly, before heading to bed. (Face palm) 

In this room, we have a total of four pillows and though there are five shown in these pictures, one got the axe after these photos had been taken, because I had been eying it for some time. It was made of feathers and so deflated after one person just slightly leans against it that it was driving me bonkers.  (Ain't nobody got time for that kind of high maintenance!). I even took a pillow off this chair above a few weeks ago, because it was always being pushed down behind the chair. Again. I am all about LOW maintenance in life these days, and that just wasn't making the cut. Just a small change, but one that has made a weirdly nice difference in my daily house arranging.  

So talk to me.  Are you a person with tons of pillows? Do your guest toss them on the floor too? 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Artwork (Becoming Minimalist)

A couple of years ago, I discovered the website, Unsplash.  (If you haven't ever heard about it, it's a photography site, where professional photographers donate their work and you can download and print their art, for free!) (I know, right?)

I've pared down what I hang on my walls, significantly this past year.  I have so many breathing, BARE walls now, and it feels amazing!  I highly recommend it!!  I like and enjoy changing what I do hang every so often though, so I've realized that by keeping a couple of places on my walls specifically designated for art, I can easily change things out. A 20x30 poster-sized photo print from Costco, is under $10. Just saying. It's thrifty but allows flexibility for those of us girls who enjoy changeable art.

This season, I discovered the most darling reindeer photo (we have named him Gary) and knew he was going here, above the buffet table, in a place of honor! (I'm currently on the hunt for a long-term piece above this buffet, specifically a tall, curved-top mirror in a specific price range, style and color, (duh, white.) but in the mean-time, I like having a place to use our menu chalkboard on occasion, (made this fall, which currently hangs in the hallway between my kids rooms at the moment) and other fun party items that change easily with our needs.) Note- If you're like me, you can just lean any artwork that you know will be more temporary, rather than hanging it.  I do this often, in several rooms and it works great!

I hung Gary up so we could use the buffet top when we host.  It is the perfect beverage station or self-serve snack area. For now this whole area is more or less decorative only but sometimes that is acceptable.  A quick note with the minimalism topic in the back of my mind.  This buffet is not packed to the gills. It holds two sets of cloth napkins, (a gray set and white set) some personal bread boards from Ikea, my grandmother's silver and various candles.  Just the basics for hosting, and all conveniently beside the dining table, where they make sense to be. I pared down so much hosting nonsense last year.  I know how I like to host now, and that has become casually minimalistic in the best of ways. I like having fewer choices because it takes all the guess work out.  Choosing less allows for choosing well and the better quality you own, the longer it lasts and the more likely you are to use it in the first place.  I'm proof positive that this is truth.

I have plans for this frame after the holidays are done (with a fun photo, also from Unsplash) so I didn't feel bad making the investment with my coupon in hand, at Hobby Lobby.  (Can't wait to share that with you in January!)

I removed my kiddos photos from this spot in the entryway temporarily, and hung one more fun image printed from the Unsplash site.  (Kid photos will return after the holidays) These gray ornaments are perfect here!  A simple faux tree I have had for years, plunked into a wood container that I found at Goodwill earlier this year completed the look I wanted. Simple and welcoming.
Simple and welcoming is sort of the motto I am living by these days.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on paring down your artwork areas to open up more bare, breathable walls and having just a few designated spaces for hangings.  Do you often change out your artwork or is that something you carefully choose and leave in a permanent spot year-round? (I always think I'd like to be that way... but I like to move it around too much!) 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Holiday Decor... (Becoming Minimalist)

Last year, I was looking for CALM everywhere, for my unsettled heart, and wrote an entire blog series about it.  This year, however, it seems that I'm still basking in the joyful glow of what becoming more of a minimalist is doing in my life... so I'll continue writing about that here as it pertains to holiday décor and holiday plans, etc.  Funny, but there are a lot of ways that having a calm holiday and having a more minimalistic approach to them go hand in hand. Over the last two or three years, I have worked to pare down all of our holiday décor.  It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, because I was already moving toward simplicity in all other facets of life so this one fell right in line with that quite easily.  I've actually gotten our stored holiday décor down to one bin and every item in it has meaning, is loved, works in our home and is ONLY what I actually want to keep!

I started with the obvious things...  broken items, old items that never got put out for various reasons, or things we didn't choose for ourselves. (Think- wedding gifts, cast offs, things that worked in the old house but don't have a good spot in this one, items that looked great at first but got cracked or chipped over time, etc.) Later, I moved toward the harder things... things I perhaps actually loved, but never had found "just the right spot for" in our home. (Why do we hang on to things like that?)  One items comes immediately to my mind... I had a little deer that I kept moving all season long, for the last two years, because it drove me crazy every place I put it... but I LOVED it so I kept it. I once had a desk that it worked perfectly, sitting on top of, but I no longer own that item so it just didn't have a home.  I felt actual relief putting it into a consignment bin this week because I don't have time or space in my life to constantly be touching and managing things that aren't working right now, today.

I realized (and kept reminding myself) that I tend to prefer fresh decorations, over just about any other types and that helped me get serious about the sort.  I pushed myself to keep only those things that came out every year, that had a special, perfect place, or a memory attached, and that really represented the look and feel that I wanted to convey for my holiday home.

I strive to be a different (and hopefully encouraging) voice here, set apart from the flashing lights of constant excess this world seems to want to offer us.  You know the one... that voice that says you can't be happy with small, or less, or simple. That voice lies and convinces women to buy and shop and acquire and stockpile and store.  (And they aren't happy most of the time, when they get it "all,"  because they often hire people like me to come in and take it all away.)  I'm just finding that any forms of excess don't resonate or work for me in all of life, and if you're in a trap that seems to be magnified with the added EVERYTHING of the holidays... perhaps I can gently encourage you with this mindset.

Last summer, I wrote about capacity and home curating, here, which was the kick off to many more posts on becoming minimalist and what that meant to me personally. I stated, that each of our homes have a capacity and it's different for every person.  When the holidays arrive, we often burst way past our capacity levels and wonder why we are longing to undecorate on December 15th.  (I know I'm not alone in ever having felt like that.)  Instagram doesn't help! I'm seeing excess in so many homes displayed there.  (The day that the follow trains or home tours come out, my eyes often want to explode.)  So few people show a real life approach to "just right" and it honestly raises my own personal stress level to look at it. Can you relate?  

The way I decorated this year, was by mostly keeping our home the way it always looks, but removing a few things if a holiday item was added into a spot. This my friends is key!!  Don't just "add to"... take away something first, if you're adding something holiday-themed to a spot.  Tuck those every day décor and wall hangings away in a bin and enjoy the simplicity of your holiday items without the added clutter. In our home, I added greenery everywhere and that will either just be severely crunchy by Dec 25 or I'll refresh it half way through the season.  It's an inexpensive way to decorate that I love and feels fresh and clean without that overdone feeling closing in on me.

Minimalism makes us pause, ask; why we want it.  If we need it.  Where we will put it.  And will we treasure it... just to name a few of the questions it gives us time to stop and think.  I've noticed that if I do happen to be out shopping and see something that wasn't on my list (a very rare thing for me in and of itself these days) I naturally stop, hold the item, and visualize where it will go in my home.  I think through it's use and how it will blend with the items around it, etc.  Nine times out of ten, it goes back on the shelf, even if I love it.  If it has no purpose, I can't see it in my space and I really don't need it... what is the point?  There is deep freedom here. Knowing your own personal capacity and your home's capacity is hugely helpful for this quick mental exercise and your checkbook will thank YOU for taking the time to know yourself and your limits. (Ha! Ya don't hear those words much around this time of the year, do you?)

I guess our take-away from all of this is to take a look around as we decorate for the holidays this year and consider.  Is it my style and taste? Do I love it? Is it too much and just in need of a little editing? (Just because you have it, doesn't mean it all has to get put out, but that begs the question, if you're not putting it out... do you need to keep it?)  Let your holiday mindset be the same as the one you practice throughout the year and see what kind of CALM that brings. So much comes from the mindset of our homes.  Peace or chaos, it often starts right in our own homes.  I'll be sharing more home pics with you soon and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic in comments!